Cocktail courses are something of a head-scratcher. You pay quite a bit of money for learning an hour of something that you can ostensibly read online or better yet, in a book (there are hundreds), and then, you spend an hour making cocktails with judgemental classmates, to end up with one drink.
That being said, the cocktail course from Nighthawks was well worth it.
Hosted by Les Raffineurs and created by Nighthawks, the course takes place once a day in the back bar of the back bar of the 1k hotel. Yes, you read that right. There is a speakeasy (la Malicia) inside of another, better known speakeasy (la Mezcaleria) behind the cellar door of the 1k hotel.
Arriving that Saturday, it was almost comedic how casually they led our group past the hotel bar and kitchen into another bar, past a trap door, and into a small, ‘secret’ chamber.
If you’ve seen Casa Del Papel, you’re familiar with this man. He’s a bit asocial and blunt, knowledgeable and even when explaining, he seems focussed on his craft. He rubs his beard when thinking, and doesn’t look directly at you when answering.
That was Sebastian, a true master and our professor for that day. I didn’t understand his full background, but he has a link with Candelaria and Le Mary Celeste–two of the best bars in Paris that I have yet to go to. If I somehow find him in the future, I’ll give you more on his bio, but from what I understood he was not only associated but an integral part to their respective successes. He responded to our researched questions with acumen and expertise. And if he didn’t know the answer he would turn out an irritated ‘I’ll think about it,’ and return to his lecture. I could tell he was truly dedicated to the game. And he shined as a bar-back, seamlessly guiding us through each step of mixing.
The Sour Family
We began our discussion with the Sour family.
- 5 parts Alcohol
- 2 parts Sour
- 2 parts Sugar
If you follow this formula, you will inevitably find yourself with a sour. Gimlet, Whiskey Sour, Rum Sour–they’re all based here.
The first interesting thing he said was ‘products from the same region naturally complement each other.’ This is why you find for example lime(sour) and cane sugar(sweet) in a Rum based Daiquiri, but lime (sour) and agave syrup (sweet) in a Tequila or Mezcal based Margherita. In a Bee’s Knees, you have a London Gin based cocktail made with Lemon (Sour) and Honey (Sweet). Lemons are more commonly used in Europe than limes, because of their accessibility and price.
We inevitably went through each of the different kinds of the main alcohols, like the Dutch Yellow Gin, as compared to British Clear Gin, and the burgeoning French and Italian Gin producers, Citadel and Jerry Thomas.
Home Bartending Tips & Tricks
He laid out several rules for amateur bartenders:
- Any brand that sells a hard alcohol under 40% ABV is null, and should not be considered in the creation of a cocktail.
- Top shelf liquor, or bottles coming in at over 60-70 $, should never be used in cocktails, and should be taken straight. The price doesn’t necessarily determine its usefulness in the cocktail world.
- One bottle of Alcohol makes about 14 cocktails.
- Shakers should only be used for ingredients with different densities, for example gin, egg white, simple syrup and lime juice.
- There is no ‘right’ way to build a cocktail, but he advised us to start with our cheapest ingredient in case you mess up.
- When hosting an event choose 2 unique drinks for different tastes, therefore you can please everyone and not overextend your need for supplies.
- Ten minutes is how long one cocktail maintains its optimum level.
He also confirmed the rumour that Bartenders love Negronis. In his circle, they frequently compare and try to improve on their respective recipes.
The Sidecar & The Tommy’s Margherita
Then it was our turn. We stepped behind the bar, the entire room watching us. My gf and I were each asked a recipe that we want to make; she chose a Tommy’s Margherita, and after a moments hesitation, I chose the Sidecar!
The Sidecar is a drink that I’ve experienced only once or twice in my life, but I know that it’s a beautiful classic. And while I’ve found many variations online, I promise the following recipe he gave me made a great drink:
4 parts Cognac
2 parts Chartreuse
1 part Citron VertBuild on ice, shake and garnish with orange zest.
5 parts Tequila
2 parts Agave
2 parts LimeBuild on Ice, shake and garnish with lime wedge, sprinkle Fleur du Sel to taste
How to Find Bartending Supplies in Paris
At the end he listed off a small litany of places to find certain items in Paris. This will be a small guide, which I’ll eventually turn into a big one as I gather more information.
For Bartending Supplies in Paris:
For Bartending Supplies Delivered to Paris:
For Specialty Alcohols
Thanks for reading! I’m thinking about delving more into flat bartending as I gain more experience. I had the chance to receive this course as a gift from a very special friend, but you can find and reserve a course through Nighthawks here.